Nowadays it is not uncommon for each member of the family down on the farm to have his or her own transportation by age sixteen. Televisions and entertainment centers have become part of the furniture of every family farm home. Nothing is denied in the way of recreation. If your car battery is dead, or there is nothing interesting on TV, or if you don’t have the latest CD or DVD by your favorite star, you can call your friends on your cell phone or get together with them on the Facebook chat line.
In the old days, country folk were a breed apart. Country living was no picnic, but don’t kid yourself, country people had fun. Party time down on the farm included listening to the radio (if you had one), peanut boilings, candy pullings, square dances, and much more. Someone was always having a party. Having no other transportation, young people would often walk several miles to a party. If someone in the community had a truck or a car he could quickly load it to capacity with party goers.
If you were one of the few who possessed a radio, you were guaranteed a lot of friends especially on Saturday night. When I was young, the favorite attractions on the radio at our house were the Grand Ole Opry and speeches by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Either event was an occasion for a fun get-together.
Some were fortunate enough to own a record player. Still in our family is an antique graphaphone. The wind-up, spring operated record player was the “stereo” of the day. Rarely heard now, the popular tunes of that day resounded in the night to thrill party goers. Somebody might even get up and dance a little jig while the adults raised the time-honored question, “What’s the younger generation coming to”?
Today, some country churches are hard pressed for someone to play the piano. In the old days, there were musicians aplenty. The home was a favorite gathering place for music lovers. There were pianists, organists, guitarists, fiddle players (uptown they call them violinists), harmonica blowers, and a variety of others. It was not uncommon for a community to have at least one person who could teach music. In almost every home there was at least one musical instrument. The first thing I remember my brother scolding me about was his guitar. He caught me strumming on it without his permission.
Near us lived the Dee Kight family. They were about as good musicians as they come. A big family, they provided music and entertainment for parties and they were in great demand. My sister remembers that every member of the family either sang or played at least one musical instrument. Yodeling seems to be a lost art these days, but in those days anyone who could yodel was high on the popularity list at any party.
One of the best yodelers I have ever heard (and I’ve been to Switzerland where yodeling was invented) was a down-home country boy by the name of J.T. O’Neal. J. T. walked almost everywhere he went and yodeled all the time. You could hear him yodeling in the woods two miles away. If J. T. had tried out for the Grand Ole Opry, he would have become famous.
Peanut boilings were favorite attractions for young and old alike. They were often so well attended that it took a big wash pot full of peanuts to feed the crowd. The peanut boiling was an outdoor party, usually at night. The get-together provided incentives to the young to contrive games to pair couples up. It was permissible to hold hands and go for a stroll in the moonlight, provided you didn’t stroll too far and stay too long.
Almost any occasion that brought people together could be construed as an excuse for a shindig. Cane grinding time was a favorite time for candy pullings. Quilting parties were among the top ten on the social hit parade. It took all hands and the cook to shell enough peanuts for spring planting. The “peanut shellings” often led to a frolic.
Well, country folks have gone uptown now and gone are the days when country fun had a different twist from city fun. But the next time that you are out for a drive in the country and see an old house deserted and falling down, stop, walk quietly up to it and listen intently for a few minutes. You may hear the sound of music and laughter. You may even hear Uncle Dave Macon from the Grand Ole Opry, or the Ole Blue Yodeler, or President Roosevelt doing a fireside chat on an old battery-powered Philco radio. Don’t tell anyone though; it may be a private party.